01/07/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: Titan Books/DC Comics. 636 page graphic novel. Price: £22.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78116-094-7.
check out websites: www.titanbooks.comand www.dccomics.com
This opening volume of 'Batman: Knightfall' is a massive read comprising of 'Batman: Vengeance Of Bane Special # 1, 'Batman' # 491 and 500, 'Detective Comics' # 659-666, 'Showcase '93' # 7-8 and 'Shadow Of The Bat' # 16-18 from 1993. As the third 'Batman' film is going to have Bane as the main antagonist, this graphic novel shows both his origins and his plan to beat Batman and give some background to newcomers to the character.
Bane is made super-strong by the super-steroid venom so you would have thought he would have been more than a match for the Dark Knight. However, he conceives the plan to get all of Batman's foes out of Arkham Asylum to keep him busy and to assess his opponents' strengths and weaknesses and figures out who the Dark Knight is. Then when the Batman is at his lowest ebb, Bane crashes Wayne Manor and attacks, resulting in breaking the Dark Knight's back. It is then up to Alfred and Tim Drake, the third Robin, to do what they can to protect Bruce Wayne's identity. In part, this is also allowing Jean Paul Valley aka Azrael to become the stand-in Batman. What Tim keeps from Bruce is that Valley is a more vicious Batman, although in part, the latter explains that he has to be up for the viciousness of his opponents. The Azrael programming takes over and Valley re-defines the Batman costume into an armour and despite warning not to, takes on Bane and well, it is history now, beats him. Bruce Wayne and Alfred, meanwhile, have left the country in pursuit of Tim's father, who has been kidnapped, and in the company of a certain Selena Kyle, who 'borrowed' a lift on their private airplane.
Summing up this epic monster of a book is difficult. The overall framework is Bane's plan but, with the exception of the Penguin, you see all of the Batman's key foes in action and the Dark Knight himself worked to a tether. As the Batman replacement, Jean Paul Valley's activities show why there is only one man who should be under the cowl but Dick Greyson as Nightwing has his own life to lead. I did wonder why, when I read the series originally, why Bruce Wayne never called in his colleagues from the Justice League to lend a hand but then, Gotham City is his turf and he needed to show his dominance.
Bane is a truly dangerous and intelligent foe and, although some illustrations of him, like the front cover of this book, exaggerated the size of his muscles, he is more than a capable person. Unlike most of Batman's villains, he isn't insane, just with an ambition to make Gotham his crime capital before moving in on the rest of the world. A nice touch of megalomania.
If you want to give your sprogs something to read prior to the third Batman film and show them the comicbook version of Bane, then this makes for an ideal read. If you want to re-live those tales yourself again, then this is a reasonably price volume for the content it contains. Just be careful of the Scarecrow's fear gas. That's a real killer. Can't wait for volume two.
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